MINNEAPOLIS — Members of George Floyd's family marked the one-year anniversary of his killing on Tuesday, May 25, by celebrating his life with a downtown festival in Minneapolis.
Speakers and attendees said that more reforms are needed in order to prevent deaths such as Floyd's, and that the reform movement is in danger of losing steam now that Derek Chauvin has been convicted of Floyd's murder.
Kenda Zellner-Smith, who is collecting the painted pieces of plywood that local storefronts used to board up their windows amid last summer's unrest, said Tuesday that Chauvin's conviction is "just the beginning." Many of the paintings she amassed so far feature Floyd's name and likeness.
"Unfortunately, the reality is there will be another name, another day and more boards will be created until we see some very instrumental change in our system," Zellner-Smith said.
Tuesday's event was held at The Commons park near US Bank Stadium, and was hosted by the George Floyd Memorial Foundation. During the event, attended by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, musicians and dancers performed on a small stage, followed by charged speeches from local poets and the families of other Black Americans killed by police.
Across town, other relatives held a similar memorial at the south Minneapolis intersection where Floyd was killed May 25, 2020. Setup there was interrupted earlier when a report of shots fired brought police to George Floyd Square at about 10 a.m. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that one person was treated for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound.
Plans at George Floyd Square included a candlelight vigil later in the evening.
From the stage in the downtown park, just blocks from the courthouse where Chauvin's trial took place, Toshira Garraway Allen said Floyd's death opened "the flood gates of heaven" and drew needed attention to police misconduct in the Twin Cities. Her fiancée Justin Teigen died in 2009 as St. Paul police pursued him in what his family alleges to be a cover-up.
Confronted with footage of Floyd's death, Garraway Allen said Minnesota and the world "didn't have a choice but to see the truth of what's really been going on at the hands of police."
But efforts to curb future misconduct, some say, have so far fallen short. The Minnesota Legislature has yet to pass bills to that effect that are currently up for debate. In a statement this week, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said measures passed by the Legislature last year were "the first steps toward meaningful police reform" but that "we have more work to do to ensure that every person in Minnesota is safe, valued, and protected in their communities."
Chauvin's sentencing, slated to take place next month, remains a source of concern for some, as does the trial of the three other officers involved in Floyd's death, which has been postponed until next March.
"We don't want nothing less than life in prison," Bianca Austin, whose niece Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in Louisville last year.
State prosecutors declined to pursue charges in Taylor's death, which remains the subject of a federal investigation. No charges were filed against the Kenosha, Wis., police officers involved in the shooting that left Jacob Blake paralyzed.
Relatives of Blake's appeared on stage and said they planned to hold an event similar to Tuesday's in Kenosha come August, when the city will mark one year since the 29-year-old's shooting.
What they said
On Tuesday, May 25, elected officials in Minnesota and around the country remembered George Floyd and called for more change. Here is a sampling:
President Joe Biden met with Floyd’s family in the Oval Office on Tuesday. He had previously called on Congress to pass federal police reforms by Tuesday’s anniversary, but they did not meet his deadline. He is pushing Congress to get something to his desk quickly: “Last month’s conviction was a step toward justice — but we cannot stop there. We face an inflection point. We have to act.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who led the state’s prosecution against Chauvin, said in a statement that “the time for all Americans of all backgrounds to do the hard work of ending racism and white supremacy once and for all is now": "For a century, and despite the best efforts of many, America has chosen inaction over climbing this mountain. But the other side of this mountain is better — not only for African Americans, but for everyone .... On the other side of this mountain, all people live with dignity and respect, and liberty and justice are truly for all.”
Minnesota’s senior Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar also pushed for Congress to reach a consensus on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, saying that last month’s conviction “brought some accountability, it did not bring us true justice”: “Because true justice is not done as long as a chokehold, a knee to the neck, is considered legitimate policing. True justice is not done as long as Black Americans are killed by law enforcement at more than twice the rate of white Americans. To confront the systemic racism in our justice system, we must work toward systemic change.”
Minnesota’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith said in a series of tweets Tuesday that the country has “taken steps toward justice … but too few.” She called for changes not only to policing, but also systemic inequities in housing, health care, wealth and more between white and Black Americans: “Systems built up over 400 years to devalue Black lives will not change easily. Entrenched power fights change as it always has.”
Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Tim Walz called for a moment of silence Tuesday afternoon for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, the amount of time Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck. “George Floyd didn't ask to be an international symbol of the pain that Black Americans have faced for generations, and yet, in the words of his daughter, he changed the world.”
Minnesota’s Democratic Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said the Minnesota Legislature last summer “took the first steps” toward addressing police violence, but that there is more work to be done in Minnesota and the country: “We have more work to do to ensure that every person in Minnesota is safe, valued, and protected in their communities…. I am very clear that if Minnesota is safer for the Black community, it is safer for all of us. We are linked — our pain and our joy, our futures are woven together, and we must support each other as relatives.”
The Minnesota Legislature’s People of Color Indigenous (POCI) Caucus said in a Tuesday statement that Floyd’s death caused a shift in the public’s view of police relations, but whether there will be substantial legislative change as a result “remains to be seen”: “We must ask ourselves: What has truly changed since last year? The fact remains that another name continues to replace George Floyd. Black men are still dying at the hands of law enforcement. Trust between our communities of color and police remains at record lows. BIPOC communities still do not feel that police keep them safe.”
State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, released a video statement on Tuesday highlighting Minneapolis’ recent spike in crime, saying now is the time to increase police forces: “So, what’s the solution? More police. It’s not reforming police right now. That should not be the message. It’s get the police out on the streets. Everybody cheer them on as they take back our streets.”